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Coming Out in the Latin Community

Challenges Persist, but Attitudes are Changing

by the HealthyMente Staff

As a culture, Latinos are known to be an animated and emotional group of people. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and don’t have a problem showing how we feel, many times, in the most dramatic ways. Case in point: Have you ever seen a telenovela? However, when it comes to talking about same-sex relationships there is deafening silence.

There are many reasons why coming out to Latin parents, family, and the community can be muy dificil. First, most Latin American families are known to be large and close knit and news travels fast! While Latino LGBT people might only “come out” to one or two family members (usually to someone close to their own age), it doesn’t take long for the entire extended family to know. Ay Dios Mio!

Second, gender roles are still very much defined in the Latin community. Machismo is still king in our community. So, a male coming out might have to deal not only with a lack of empathy, but all the negative verbal feedback that comes with it. Females coming out may cause a different kind of reaction. Although many same-sex couples today are raising children quite successfully, mama and abuelita might not immediately see that as an option, instead worrying that she is “giving up” motherhood.

Third, even if LGBT Latinos are pretty confident that their family will be accepting of their sexuality, they could be reluctant to do so fearing they would bring shame to the family.

Finally, religion is a factor in how LGBT people are accepted in the Latino community. According to a Pew Research Center report in May 2014, a majority (55%) of U.S. Hispanics identify as Catholic. Officially, the Catholic Church teaches that same-sex behavior violates divine and natural law.

Despite the coming out process still being a multi-faceted challenge for Hispanic gays and lesbians, attitudes are evolving in the Latino community.

According to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, 63% of U.S. Hispanics voters now support same-sex marriage. As for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has stated publicly that the church has become “obsessed” with issues like homosexuality to the detriment of its larger mission to be a “home for all.” Moreover, the number of U.S. Hispanics who identify as Catholics has sharply decreased since just a few years ago. And of those American Catholics, 62% favor legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. That’s according to a New York Times/ CBS New poll in February 2013. But the future belongs to the next generation, and according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 81% of young adults (18-29) support the freedom to marry the person you love, regardless of gender.

But we’re not there yet and Latino families are still wrestling with the issue today.

As a rule, Latino families tend to keep family matters “in the family.” This is certainly the case with LGBT issues. Unfortunately, this keeps us out of the orbit of LGBT resources and support groups. If privacy is a big concern, a lot of valuable information can be found on the web if you know where to look. For example, Latinos share inspiring coming out stories in Mami, I’m Gay on NBCLatino.com

Many respected organizations now have resources specifically for the Latino community. Here are a few places you will feel safe and welcome:

PFLAG.org (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians & Gays)

TheTrevorProject.org (Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention for young LGBTQ people)

GLAAD.org GLAAD offers a number of important support resources for Latino families dealing with how and when to come out. If you’re considering coming out to your family, check out these GLADD publications that can help ease the process.

HRC.org Human Rights Campaign’s Guía de Recursos Para Salir Del Clóset

A special note for LGBTQ young people:

You might also be especially concerned about personal safety and discretion. If you are a student, look for a teacher’s office, school office, or classroom designated as a “safe-space,” “safer-space,” or “positive space.” Sometimes the room will have a sticker or sign with an inverted pink triangle surrounded by a green circle. This will tell you that the educator in that office does not tolerate anti-LGBT violence or harassment, and their space is 100% safe for you to seek help or advice without any judgment or negative consequences. Remember, you don’t need to personally know the teacher or administrator, so don’t be nervous about that.

Above all, believe in yourself and know that being LGBTQ is not a disease or disorder, it is perfectly normal despite what some people say. The fact is, there are millions of very successful, happy and healthy LGBTQ people living in the world today, and it’s your destiny to join them!


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